Judges 2:11-23 Covenantal Apostasy – Failure To Heed The Word.

Judges 2:11-23 Covenantal Apostasy – Failure To Heed The Word.

There is no neutrality when it comes to our basic commitments in life. With the loss of godly leadership, and an ignorance of their past covenantal history (vv. 7-10), the generation that followed after Joshua and the elders with him, “did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals” (v. 11 Cf. 3:12; 4:1; 6:1). A lack of a personal relationship with the covenantal LORD is always accompanied by an ignorance of what the sovereign LORD has done for his people in history. “Another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (v. 10 Cf. 3:7). The saints were always reminded of the LORD acting in history for their deliverance. This is not the case for apostates. “They forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger” (v. 12). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

There is no neutrality when it comes to our basic commitments in life. If people do not worship the one true God they will worship someone or something else. This is a consequence of forgetting what the sovereign covenantal LORD has done in history. When those who are in covenant with the LORD reject him, they invariably adopt the culture around them. It is this spiritual adultery that provoked the LORD to anger against them. They forsook the LORD to serve another. There is irony in their acceptance of the gods of the pagan culture around them, for far from being their friends, the LORD would use these pagans to exact his punishment on them. They may have wanted to forget their history, but their enemies would not (vv. 13-14). This judgment was neither capricious nor arbitrary, for the LORD had warned them that this would be the punishment for their spiritual adultery and high treason (v. 15). These are the curses that fall upon those who deliberately break the covenantal bond (Lev. 26:14-26; Dt. 28:15-68).

“Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (v. 16). This is simply another way of saying that while they were his enemies he loved them, and showed grace to them in his sovereign control of history. “Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them” (v. 17a). Here we see the crux of the matter, the root of all apostasy – the obstinate refusal to heed the word of the LORD. When the LORD’s covenanted people turn away from his law, it is a clear indication that they have turned their backs on him (v. 17b). The LORD pitied the plight of his people, and chose to lead his people through the judges who governed according to his word (v. 18). “When the judge was dead…they did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way” (v. 19a). There is no neutrality – one either follows the LORD through his word, or one’s own way (v. 19b). It is a transgression of the covenant (v. 20a).

Since they rejected the LORD’s word, he would not give them victory over those enemies who remained with the death of Joshua (v. 21). Instead, the LORD would use these nations to test his people, “whether they would keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not” (v. 22). Since they refused to follow the LORD in their prosperity, he would test them with adversity. This is a telling warning not to take the LORD for granted, or worse yet depart from his word, when blessings abound. Our writer seems to suggest that this may have in fact been one of the reasons why the LORD did not deliver all his enemies into Joshua’s hand. A new generation would need their own battles to fight, otherwise they would be prone to drift away (v. 23 Cf. Dt. 7:22-23; Josh. 13:1-7). “This explains why there were still Canaanites during a period when Israel had been faithful (vv. 6-9). Vv. 20-22 and 3:1-4 provide a new reason for God’s leaving the Canaanites, to test the hearts of the people.” (NGSB. 336)

Judges 2:7-10 The Death Of Joshua, And Godliness.

Judges 2:7-10 The Death Of Joshua, And Godliness.

Although the people were not perfect, the writer is able to affirm that “the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (v. 7a). Leadership is important for the good of any community, but especially for the covenant community of the church. It is a rare case indeed to have a godly society with godly leadership. One thing stands out in this passage as that which set Joshua and the elders apart – they “had seen all the great works of the LORD which he had done for Israel” (v. 7b). Godly leadership is only provided by those who know the LORD to be the sovereign God of history, who acts in history on behalf of his covenanted people. Those who forget this history forget the God who acts in history. The second thing to note, with respect to Joshua in particular, was that he was a servants of the LORD. The record reveals how he was also a servant for the people, but this was secondary, and based upon his primary duty (v. 8).

Too many have a pagan view of the body, especially as it passes to the grave. The churches loses a great deal when it forgets the importance of where one’s body lays. It was important that Joshua be buried in the land of his inheritance, for Joshua had laboured, however imperfectly, all the days of his life that the LORD’s kingdom would come, that his will would be done on earth as it was in heaven. The Christian hope is not one of a bodiless or earthless future – quite the opposite. The Christian hope is one of a resurrection body dwelling in a new heavens and a new earth. Heaven isn’t our permanent home, the earth is. Joshua wanted to be raised in the land which the LORD had promised to him, the place he laboured as the LORD’s servant, and one day he shall. However, when that generation had all passed, the next generation had forgotten the works which the LORD had done, for they did not know the LORD. It is only the true children of faith who remember their covenantal history.

Matthew 23 The Woes Of The Old Covenant Lawsuit.

Matthew 23 The Woes Of The Old Covenant Lawsuit.

Jesus upheld the authority of the Mosaic legislation. Therefore his disciples are told to follow what they tell people to observe, at least insofar as they are true to the canonical revelation through him. They were called to this, in spite of the reality that these teachers did not put it into practice themselves. What would set them apart from the apostate leadership was their commitment to put the Mosaic legislation into practice (vv. 1-3). Part of putting the law-word of the covenant into practice is to help those who find their burdens too heavy to bear (v. 4). Furthermore, we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only, not to brag or just to be seen, but to do so because it is right. On the borders of their garments they had the blue thread to signify their role as teachers or bearers of the word, which they made much of. They also enjoyed the attention of the people for this role which they played. They acted like the authors of the word, instead of humble servants administering it (vv. 5-9). Christ is to be our teacher (v. 10).

Here we see a very important hermeneutical principle as well, that we can only really comprehend the Mosaic legislation, indeed the whole of the Old Testament scriptures, through the lens of the Christ. Therefore, the great in the kingdom of the Christ, are those ministers who are servants of the word, those who humble themselves and exalt the Christ (vv. 11-12). This was not the way of the apostate religious leadership of Jesus’ day. The woes which Jesus spoke concerning them were the woes of covenantal infidelity (vv. 13ff. Cf. Dt. 28:15ff.). They were hypocrites, because as Jesus just said, they preached the law, but did not live it. However, their sin was greater even than this. Even with respect to Moses they had fallen short. For in the Mosaic legislation the gospel was revealed. In the law word of the covenant there was and remains an open invitation to enter the kingdom of the Christ (v. 13), to be redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb, a hope that looked forward to the once and for all finished work of Jesus the Christ.

With each woe they are reminded of their hypocrisy. They justified devouring widows houses, by making a pretense through their long prayers. For sure offer prayer, but then offer help to the widow. This they did not do (v. 14). There is a greater condemnation for them, for they knew that assistance for widows was demanded of them, but they opted to hide behind their long prayers and ostentatious phylacteries. Their prayer ought to have been, “Father take away our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh, to help these poor widows.” It was not as though they didn’t exert themselves, but they did so for their own ends – travelling “land and sea to win one proselyte (v. 15),” all to make them “as much a son of hell” as themselves. In their twisted way of thinking they thought that what men brought to God was more important than what God, in sacrifice, had to do for them. The gold symbolized the best of what men could bring into God’s presence, but it was God’s presence which sanctified these gifts and not vice versa (vv. 16-19).

Swearing, or the bearing of covenantal witness, is no less serious if referred to anything one step away from the LORD himself, for all things are sanctified or set apart by him (vv. 20-22). Jesus didn’t discourage the keeping of the lesser matters of the law, like the paying of mint, anise, and cumin, but he did condemn the neglect of the weightier matters of the law like “justice and mercy and faith” (v. 23). Yes, these are the weighty matters of the law! They were blind guides who majored on the minor and minored on the major (v. 24). Another such example, which was symbolic of their own persons, was the washing of the outside of a cup and dish, while the inside was “full of extortion and self-indulgence” (v. 25). If they had focused on their own internal condition, and in faith looked for mercy to answer to the LORD’s justice, then their actions, or external acts, would also be clean (v. 26). They only sought to appear outwardly righteous, all the while being spiritually dead within, but it showed (vv. 27-28).

They also outwardly gave honor and homage to the prophets and the righteous whom their forefathers had killed (v. 29), but they were guilty of the very same things, thus being “partakers with them in the blood of the prophets” (v. 30). In fact, they were, by their very teaching and practice, then current witnesses to the crimes of their forbearers (v. 31). In so doing they were confirming to the full, the guilt of their fathers (v. 32). They were children of the devil, whose words and deeds would condemn them to hell (v. 33). Jesus had sent, and would continue to send ministers of the word to them, but their response would be no different than their father(s). This was to the end that all the blood of the righteous might come in judgment upon that generation (vv. 34-35). Jesus took no pleasure in this, instead he mourned over Jerusalem, for all along the invitation to mercy was given, but they were not willing. Blessing, including membership in the LORD’s house, comes only through acknowledgment of Jesus as the Blessed One (vv. 37-39).

Matthew 22:41-46 Jesus, Two Natures, One Person – Reigning.

Matthew 22:41-46 Jesus, Two Natures, One Person – Reigning.

Jesus is now the one asking the question. The Pharisees were already gathered together to test him, but this time he had a test for them. It was well known that the Christ, Messiah, or Anointed One was to be a son of David. Jesus asked his question knowing what they would say. However, what was not commonly understood was a passage such as Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1 where we read that the Messiah would be much more than David’s descendant. Since it was and remains common knowledge that David wrote this Psalm under the inspiration of the Spirit, the question is how David could speak of the covenant LORD saying to his Lord that the latter would sit by the former’s right hand till his enemies are made his footstool.

To sit at the right hand of the LORD and to be called Lord by any man was a clear affirmation of his deity. For it to be David initially, had to raise the question of how he could also be David’s son. It was not a question which the Pharisees could answer, and from that day onward no one dare ask him anymore questions. This situation highlights the fact that even among those esteemed as learned in the scriptures could not grasp the total picture of the nature of the Messiah’s person, and thus also of his coming reign. The church would, through much deliberation, come up with confessional statements, such as Chalcedon, which would seek a biblical response to this question – namely two natures, human and divine, in the one person of the Messiah.

Matthew 22:34-40 The First And Second Great Commandments.

Matthew 22:34-40 The First And Second Great Commandments.

First the Pharisees had been silenced in their attempt to trap Jesus (vv. 15-22), then the Sadducees (vv. 23-33). So now the Pharisees, through a presumably learned lawyer, take another run at Jesus, again to test him (vv. 34-35). The lawyer asked Jesus what was the great commandment in the law (v. 36). “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” (v. 37) It all begins in the heart, by which the bible means a person’s core, the deepest part of a person’s being, the real person (Cf. Prov. 23:26). Then there is one’s soul, which is both our life, and that immaterial part of us that will survive with the dissolution of the body, and before we receive our resurrection bodies (Cf. Dt. 10:12; 30:6). Matthew then has ‘mind’, whereas Deuteronomy then has ‘strength’. “The Hebrew expresses totality. For this reason the New Testament sometimes renders it with ‘mind and strength’ (Mark 12:30 Cf. II Kgs 23:25).” (NGSB. 250) Luke 10:27 has both. The totality of all a person is, and thinks, is what is conveyed here.

“This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (vv. 38-39) This second commandment also comes from the law, namely Leviticus 19:18. In the law this command is sandwiched between two important ancillary truths directly related to the command. The first is that we are not to take vengeance ourselves, but instead we are to love our neighbour (Cf. Dt. 32:35). The other is, we are to love our neighbour as ourselves because it is our covenant LORD who commands us. Paul affirmed this also, and added that “therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:9-10). “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (v. 40). With respect to the second commandment, Jesus made this point early on in his ministry (7:12). These commands not only summarize the whole of the law, but the law and the prophets, that is the whole of the scriptures. These commands do not replace everything else, they summarize, which gets back to the question asked. Jesus did not come to destroy, but to fulfill (5:17).

Matthew 22:23-33 The Hope Of The Resurrection.

Matthew 22:23-33 The Hope Of The Resurrection.

The same day as the Pharisees asked their question about paying taxes to Caesar (vv. 15-22), the Sadducees, who said there was no resurrection, came with their question (v. 23). If they were sincere students of the scriptures, and actually believed that he was a teacher who taught scripture truth, they could have asked him outright if he believed in the resurrection and why. However, they probably heard him teach enough to know that he did believe in the resurrection, especially teaching of his own resurrection on the third day. Instead they think themselves clever, and seeking to simply trap Jesus, they pose to him what they imagined was a question that he would not be able to answer. They posed the example of a woman who was married serially to seven brothers before she died, because of the obligation to further the line of the first husband (vv. 24-27). It is likely that they saw any future for themselves as being that which carries on through one’s children. In any case, they ask Jesus whose wife she would be in a resurrection (v. 28).

Jesus tells them that they were mistaken on two counts – their lack of understanding of the scriptures which teach resurrection, and their unbelief in the power of God to do it (v. 29). The answer to their direct question was a simple one, in that with the resurrection there is no marriage (v. 30). However, with respect to the scriptures on the subject, he directs them to the scriptures they valued the most, the five books of Moses, and states the obvious point that though the patriarchs were dead that nevertheless Moses said that God is the God of them, and not that he was the God of them (vv. 31-32a). “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (v. 32b). A simple and yet direct answer to their question was one thing to marvel at, but so was his answer to the larger question of the resurrection. No doubt the multitudes also marveled, for they were likely as much interested in the issue or more so than the Sadducees, and Jesus taught them that there is this hope of eternal life, not just through their descendants, but for themselves forever.

 

Matthew 22:15-22 Taxes, Teaching, And Truth.

Matthew 22:15-22 Taxes, Teaching, And Truth.

The context of this passage, it must be remembered, is the desire on the part of the Pharisees to trap Jesus in his answer to their question as to whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (v. 15). Secondly, their disciples, and the Herodians sent with them, were instructed to flatter Jesus before asking him this question. They do this first of all, in addressing him as ‘Teacher’. Then they suggest admiration for him as a teacher because of their presumed love of the truth. “We know that you are true” (v. 16a). This is an interesting claim. One could diverge here on the very question of how one knows anything at all, that is epistemology or the study of knowledge. Furthermore, this inevitably does raise the issue of what is truth, and just exactly how can one be sure that they know the truth? In short, they were coming to him because they claimed to know that Jesus was one who taught “the way of God in truth” (v. 16b).

Thirdly, they also suggest that they know him to be a man who is not influenced negatively by the pressure of others. We might infer that they were saying more than this, that Jesus really didn’t care about anyone, and if this were the case they would feel at home with him, since this describes everything we know about the Pharisees (v. 16c). Fourthly, from their question it is clear that they didn’t know what Jesus thought about their question. Finally, it must be noted that they were also conspiring with the Herodians. Very early on the Pharisees had “plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mk. 2:6). Jesus had warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of both (Mk. 8:15), that they had been trying to catch Jesus in his words for some time (Mk. 12:13). This was a political alliance, as the Herodians, as supporters of Herod, were allied with Rome. (NGSB. 1565)

All of the above is described by Matthew as wickedness on their part, which Jesus had perceived, and why he said, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites” (v. 18)? They were hypocrites, because they claimed to be desirous of knowing the truth all the while seeking to frame Jesus in some perceived lie. They were also hypocritical with their flattery, when their only intent was to destroy him. It was an interesting question given the two parties involved. “The hated pole tax symbolized submission to Rome. If Jesus simply advocated payment of the tax, He would alienate the people; if He encouraged nonpayment the Herodians would accuse Him of treason.” (NGSB. 1542) In other words, the former would be cause for the Pharisees against Jesus, whereas the latter scenario would be cause for the Herodians. So these two groups conspired together knowing that Jesus’ answer would soon cause them to part ways.

All of this makes the simplicity of Jesus’ answer all the more telling. Since it was Caesar’s image on the money, he clearly had the jurisdiction on its use (vv.19-21a). “Jesus answer turns the question to a deeper issue, ultimate allegiance to God. The coin bearing the image of Caesar belongs to him; human beings made in the image of God belong to God” (NGSB. 1542). Later on Paul and Peter would expound further on a Christian’s duty with respect to the civil authorities (Cf. Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-15). However, it is clear that there was nothing in Jesus answer that either party could use against him – they marveled and went their own way. This is what faces anyone with respect to Jesus, marvelling at his teaching is not enough. Either he does in fact teach the truth, and therefore should be followed, or one marvels but then goes their own way (v. 22). Some simply say with Pilate – “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38)

Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable Of The Wedding Feast.

Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable Of The Wedding Feast.

This parable is meant in the first instance to apply to those among Jesus’ own people – Israel. However, as the parable indicates they did not think it worthwhile to accept his invitation, even after he told them of the great blessings to expect (vv. 1-5). Worse yet, there were those who abused and murdered the servants that the groom had sent to invite them (v. 6). The king was angry and destined these for judgment. They spurned the groom and his servants, but in their arrogant pride they showed themselves to be unworthy (vv. 7-8). In their place the servants were told to go to the highways to gather any they could find, that “the wedding hall may be filled with guests” (vv. 9-10). However, even though the wedding invitation went out to all, one still had to be clothed in wedding garments fit for the situation. All those not clothed by this Prince, will be cast into the same place as those who first rejected him. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (v. 14). We must be clothed with the “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” of the groom himself (Is. 61:10 Cf. Rom. 13:14; II Cor. 5:21).

II Samuel 23:8-24 David’s Mighty Men And Judgment.

II Samuel 23:8-24 David’s Mighty Men And Judgment.

The writer tells of three mighty men who were with David and their exploits (vv. 8-17), and then of another three, Abishai (the brother of Joab), Benaiah, and Asahel (another brother of Joab). What is significant with respect to these six is that Joab is not mentioned among them. There then follows a long list of others who were with David (vv. 18-39). “By concluding the list of David’s mighty men with Uriah, the victim of David’s great sin in ch. 11, the chapter ends with a poignant reminder that David was, like all men, a sinner and in need of God’s forgiveness (ch. 12). This theme is continued in the next chapter.” (NGSB. 464) We then read that “the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah” (24:1).

Previously the nation suffered from a drought for 3 years because Saul, as the nation’s covenantal head, broke the covenant that had been made with the Gibeonites through Joshua (Ch. 9). The drought was a part of the covenantal curse they had brought on themselves (21:1-2). The cataloguing of the mighty men of war may have been the cause of the LORD’s anger (I Chron. 27:23-24)* In effect the LORD decided to give David up to his own folly, and as indicated at I Chronicles 21:1, he would do so through the instrumentality of Satan.** Joab acknowledges that it is a blessing to have many people, and even for the king to see them, but he asks David why he wanted to number them. However, it does not appear that he told Joab why, and David did not change his mind (v. 3-4a).

Joab and the captains proceeded to do as David had requested (v. 4b-7). Joab may have simply not wanted such a menial task, one which took nine months and twenty days (v. 8). Israel had 800,000 valiant men, and Judah 500,000 (v. 9). Upon hearing the report “David’s heart condemned him, and he asks for the LORD’s forgiveness (v. 10). It would appear that David was forgiven, but as in the case of his sin with Bathsheba, there would be consequences. Rather than a long protracted 7 years of famine, or to be humiliated by an enemy (v. 14), David chose 3 days of a plague, as the punishment choice which the LORD had given him through his Seer Gad (vv. 11-13). David also knew that the LORD was rich in mercy. As it turns out, the LORD did eventually restrain the angel (vv. 15-17).

David, seeing the angel striking the people, actually asked the LORD to punish him and his house instead (v. 15). It is worth noting that the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor, and it is to the threshing floor that the LORD directs David to go to in order to erect an altar to the LORD (v. 18). “So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded” (v. 19). David decided he wanted to buy the plot of land on which was the threshing floor, from one Araunah (vv. 20-21). Aranuah offered David whatever he needed, including the animals for the sacrifice (vv. 22-23). However, David insisted on buying the plot, and animals for a burnt offering, since he would not offer anything that did not cost him something (vv. 24-25a). The LORD answered prayer and the plague ended (v. 25b).

*“Taking a census does not appear to have been wrong in itself (Nu. 1:1, 2; 4:1, 2; 26:1-4), but see Ex. 30:11, 12. This act of census may have pointed to a lack of trust in David’s heart, or even a desire to gain control of God’s sovereignty by making an inventory of his apparent resources. That the report (v. 9) emphasizes military strength may suggest that David wanted to take more territory than what the Lord (sic) had granted him.” (NGSB. 464)

An alternative reason may be that posited by S. G. DeGraaf in his ‘Promise And Deliverance’. “The Lord (sic) brought this about because His anger was directed against the people on account of their misdeeds, for which they had not yet been punished. Hadn’t the people rejected David for Absalom and then for Sheba? They had rejected the head of the covenant – and thereby the Lord’s (sic) covenant itself. For this the Lord (sic) now intended to punish them.” (188)

**“The Scripture is clear that God is not the author of evil (James 1:13-15), but it also teaches that the wicked acts of men and of Satan do not fall outside God’s sovereign determination (Ex. 4:21; I Sam. 2:25; 1 Kin. 22:20-23; Job 1:12; Ezek. 14:9; Acts 4:27, 28).” (NGSB. 464)

II Samuel 23:1-7 An Everlasting Covenant.

II Samuel 23:1-7 An Everlasting Covenant.

In David’s “last words” (v. 1a) as he approached the end of his life, and despite all the great things the LORD for and through him, the thing which stuck out the most for him was that he was privileged to have the Spirit of the LORD speak by him (v. 2). This is why he is remembered as “the sweet Psalmist” (v. 1c). This is also what is meant by him being “the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob” (v. 1b). He was raised, as a prophet, to the very council of heaven and there was given the words he spoke and wrote for the canon of holy scripture. He was told that real rulers are those who are “just, ruling in the fear of God” (v. 3). The ruler who heeds God’s word is “like the light of the morning when the sun rises” (v. 4). Sadly, David had to confess that not all his house were as inclined as he was (v. 5a).

For David the covenantal bond with the LORD was everlasting, but some were outward members only – circumcised in body but not in spirit. It is the covenantal bond which “is ordered in all things and secure” (v. 5 Cf. Ch. 7). The covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered” (O. Palmer Robertson ‘The Christ Of The Covenants’). For this reason it is everlasting and ordered with a purpose – to include all things and be secure. Our salvation involves the whole of life – all things. It is also secure unto the elect. This is the salvation and desire of all God’s true children. Furthermore, it is a work of God that is ever increasing, as through the word and Spirit we are continually being sanctified. Those outside the covenant, or mere external members, are regarded as “sons of rebellion,” destined for the fire (vv. 6-7).